The hunt for Dino Scala, nicknamed the ‘rapist of the Sambre’, is the subject of a miniseries on France 2. This 62-year-old man was sentenced to 20 years in prison in July 2022 for 54 sexual crimes and rape. This case has occupied several generations of researchers for three decades.
“The Sambre Rapist” (or “morning rapist”, in Belgium) operated between 1988 and 2018 around his home located on the French-Belgian border, in the North department, near the Sambre River, which earned him his nickname. For thirty years, Dino Scala slipped through the cracks. Described as a good family man, even a “ loving father » by his wife or as a “ person with a big heart » by one of his daughters during his trial, the friendly coach and president of the Pont-sur-Sambre football club was a sexual aggressor in the shadows, following his prey in France and Belgium on the banks of the Sambre.
How could this sexual predator stay under the radar for thirty years? During the trial, Franck Martins, one of the investigators who had worked on the case since 1996, provided some explanation. He explained that the rapist’s range extended over 30 kilometers around the Sambre and that the police had only meager clues for the investigation that were repeatedly reported by the victims: a strong smell of grease, a light car, a hat. “ We were looking for an average gentleman », the researcher explained.
The case stalled until one morning in February 2018, when an investigator spotted a car matching the various reports near the scene of the attack on a young girl on the Belgian side. The driver was arrested a few days later at his home: Dino Scala. The results of the DNA test soon confirmed the investigators’ suspicions: the maintenance technician and father of five children was indeed the sexual pervert who had terrorized the region for thirty years.
Dino Scala was tried in June 2022 for 17 rapes, 12 attempted rapes and 27 sexual assaults or attempted sexual assaults, or 56 offences. He was sentenced to twenty years in prison for 54 of them. During the hearings he explained that he had had urges since he was 12.
The archive at the top of the article published on June 9, 2022 in the edition 19-20, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, traces the affair in archives and tries to answer the question: who is hiding behind the rapist of the Sambre ? The report broadcast on the eve of the trial included testimonies from victims: “ I think he saw me (…) he saw me walking from home to work “, ” I said to myself: I have a rapist behind my back… “, ” With a knife to his throat he told me to shut up or I will kill you!! “.
The modus operandi, the proximity of the places and the multiplication of complaints, everything made us believe that it was a serial rapist, who had caused a wave of terror in Avesnois, with the institution of “enhanced security in the morning, so that there are no single women, as explained by Annick Mattighello, the mayor of Louvroil (2001-2018). On the Belgian side, the same climate of fear and the deployment of extra patrols by the mayor of Erquelinnes.
The report then went back to the rapist’s last attack, not far from Erquelinnes station, on Monday, February 5, 2018. After attempting to rape a 15-year-old girl, the rapist fled by car. His vehicle had been filmed by surveillance cameras, revealing part of the license plate. A few weeks later, Dino Scala was arrested at his home in Pont-sur-Sambre, quickly admitting the facts. In this montage, Jean-Philippe Vicentini, the public prosecutor of Valenciennes, explained that he had stated that he was acting under impulses he could not control.
The report also returned to his town, where his arrest and confession caused astonishment among residents. This portrait of an affable and sociable man contrasted with the last testimony presented in the archive, that of one of his victims who was 14 years old at the time of his rape and who thus described the conversation she had with him that ‘he doesn’t do that’. don’t kill her. The challenge of the trial was to try to unravel the Scala riddle.